Buying big-ticket items online

FRESNO, Calif.

In fact a recent study by e-Bay motors showed more than nine of ten so-called millennials -- born between 1980 and 2000 -- turn to the internet when shopping for a new car or truck. And many local businesses are adjusting their marketing to keep up with this mobile shopping trend.

The roar of the engine on a Mercedes SLS AMG in the showroom can be heard by potential customers across the country... thanks to the online presence of Mercedes Benz of Fresno.

From Twitter and Facebook, Instant messaging on their website, even a smartphone app, General Manager Scott Biehl said, "It has expanded our horizon of who we sell cars to. I mean, I've shipped cars to Florida, Texas. I think the biggest thing if you're buying anything online, especially a big ticket item, is understanding who you're dealing with on the other end of that."

Biehl estimates 25% to 30% of his sales are generated online, and as many as 90% of his customers that come in have already researched their purchase online.

Biehl explained, "That's what they're used to. So we have to change our patterns to fit their lifestyles and how they want to be communicated to."

But he adds, there's no substitute for a real-life test drive where you can feel, see and hear the car.

The same goes for shopping for a home. It was love at first sight for retiree Ron Armstrong. A Facebook search connected Armstrong with realtor Sabrina Brown.

Armstrong explained, "When Facebook first came out I said there's no way I'm going to get on Facebook. But it saved us a lot of money and footwork in our home search."

Instead of driving neighborhoods and attending open houses -- using up valuable time and gas -- Armstrong could narrow down his options through virtual tours on guarantee's website... and scan listings on Guarantee's home search app.

Realtor Sabrina Brown explains instant communication with clients is key: "Because right now the market is really tight so you have to be on top of it. Yesterday new listing came on the market, we looked at it, we wrote it up and got it accepted. Same day."

Brown says some clients will even buy a home sight unseen, with all transactions done by completely through e-mail and text. She's doing everything she can to keep up with the faster, more mobile version of chasing the American dream.

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